Terry’s Story: Michael has been involved in the Adventure Guides program for 8 years as well as a volunteer in the Annual Campaign. Along with his daughters, they have held the volunteer roles of Circle Wizard, Circle Navigators, Expedition Wizards, Expedition Compass Bearers and Expedition Navigator. For the last two years, Michael has held the role of Federation Navigator of the Mission Viejo Family YMCA.
Michael’s passion and love for the Adventure Guides and YMCA is awesome!
Michael’s Story: I was coaching my youngest daughter’s soccer team when one of her teammates gave her a flyer inviting her to a meeting of a group for something called the Adventure Princesses. I’d never heard of it, but she wanted to go so we attended a circle meeting for a group called the Bengals of the Big Thunder Spirit Expedition. They were preparing for a local campout as a new circle in the group that was led by some families that had graduated the program the year prior. The dads and girls made us feel very welcome and the excitement and enthusiasm shown by both them and a certain “Y’s Guy” named Ken Clark had such an effect on my daughter that she demanded we join. I can honestly say it was the best demand a 5 year old ever made.
We had so much fun on that first campout that my older daughter demand to join as well. For the next three years, we attended almost every event )from Camp Surf to Joshua Tree to Rawhide Ranch and more) and began building relationships that no other activity could hope to build. This wasn’t just sitting on a sideline cheering, this was actively making memories that we will never forget. We were Circle Wizards and then led the Bengals as Circle Navigators. I valued every moment we spent together on campouts doing Nation Games, Compass Pin Activities, sitting by the campfire drinking hot chocolate and even braving torrential rains with 60 MPH winds in our tent. I watched my eldest sing a song in front of the 300 plus people (including moms and siblings at our Family Campout) while our circle performed a skit she created and taught the dads and daughters. After my eldest graduated, my youngest and I became Expedition Wizards then had the honor of being asked to lead the Expedition as its Compass Bearer then Navigator. I got to watch my younger daughter blossom as she became a leader for the girls both in our circle and in our entire Expedition, having so much fun that she started leading our Campfires on Saturday nights with me watching in awe. It was such an amazing experience that I’m still saddened to this day that I wasn’t able to get my oldest involved sooner.
We’re all three now involved with the Islanders group (formerly known as Trailmates) for graduates of the Princess program because we don’t want the experience to end. I also currently serve as the Federation Navigator overseeing all of the MV Guides groups, helping them all provide opportunities for other dads to have these same experiences with their children. I’ve been actively involved in Campaign as well because I truly believe everyone should have this chance to bond with their kids in a meaningful way while they are still young, free from circumstances or financial burdens. It’s just too important to let that make someone miss the short window of time before suddenly they’re taking driver’s license tests and filling out college applications.
We’ve also been able to build new friendships with dads and daughters from not just our Circle, but our Expedition and even other Expeditions. I absolutely feel like “One of A Hundred Fathers.” It got us involved at the Y where my youngest learned to swim which eventually led to her playing club water polo where her leadership skills shine. The confidence built from being up in front of groups has helped my eldest become a leader in the Model United Nations program in her high school. The effects of being in this program are far reaching, well beyond just learning to tie knots or identify animal tracks.
There is no program like this involving so many opportunities to make memories and forge bonds that will never be broken. I can honestly say that my experiences with the program and the people (like Ken Clark) in it have made me a better father and I wish every dad could be involved and get the chance to build relationships with their kids like I have. Don’t miss out.